Food fight! Slope merchants object to new truck rally

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Grand Army Plaza’s food truck rally has become a food fight.

The Prospect Park Alliance’s decision to expand its one-time festival into a monthly event — to be held on the third Sunday of every month until Oct. 16 — has inflamed many local business owners.

“This neighborhood is being exploited by a fad,” fumed Janice Pullicio, owner of Naidre’s café on Seventh Avenue near 12th Street. “We pay rent and taxes in the Park Slope community. Considering the economic hardship of the past few years, Prospect Park should be supporting, not hindering, local businesses.”

Melissa Murphy, owner of Sweet Melissa Patisserie on Seventh Avenue near First Street, agreed.

“I am paying so much money on rent, and there is a truck parked right outside my door on most days,” she said. “The fact that the community is supporting these non-local vendors is beyond ignorant.”

The Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District has also lodged complaints with the Alliance.

But Alliance spokesman Eugene Patron said that the food truck confab will benefit the community.

“There are concerns every time there is a big change,” said Patron. “But we strongly believe that having something so exciting happening at the park only increases interest in — and exploration of — the neighborhood around it.”

Pullicio hungrily disagrees.

“All the trucks do for us is leave a mess for the Sanitation Department to clean up with taxpayer dollars. So for them to swoop in out of nowhere and steal away our business in the height of our season is beyond infuriating.”

Susan Povich, who plans to make her popular Red Hook Lobster Pound truck a regular at the rallies, bristles at these accusations.

“We are all responsible business owners. We clean up after ourselves, accrue our fair share of expenses and between us, employ hundreds of members of the Brooklyn community.”

And the idea that she’s poaching business?

“We’re not. And if we do, maybe they should take it as a sign to change their menus.”

Not every shop owner opposes the food trucks.

“Having a few trucks at the park one afternoon does not affect things all the way down on Fifth Avenue,” said Caitlin Geoghan, owner of Gorilla Coffee on Fifth Avenue. “This neighborhood is big enough and affluent enough to support many different kinds of businesses. So, more power to the trucks!”

Wherever you stand on the issue, one thing’s for sure, this Sunday, you can order your wafels and dinges with a side of controversy.

Food Truck Rally at Grand Army Plaza (Union Street between Flatbush Avenue and Prospect Park West in Park Slope), June 19, July 17, Aug. 21, Sept. 18, and Oct. 16, 11 am-5 pm. For info, visit

Updated 5:24 pm, July 9, 2018: Corrects a mistake about the Park Slope Civic Council, which has not taken a position.
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Reasonable discourse

al pankin from downtown says:
putting these food trucks on the city streets is a joke, these trucks poach business from the legitimate, tax paying businesses that support the city and it's give away programs. the food trucks don't pay rent, water , electric, taxes, gabage pick up or any other things that the city thinks up to harass the busines owners in New York. the city encourages these outlaw businesses to operate. what service do these trucks do? none.
June 15, 2011, 5:08 am
Janice Pullicino from Brooklyn says:
Some really great points were made, and the best the PPA could come up with is that we are bad at responding to change (how patronizing), and that it encourages people to walk around the other parts of the neighborhood, which is completely wrong, it has the exact opposite effect. The last truck rally, the local streets had significantly less foot traffic than a typical Sunday, because our regular customers were lured out of the area and over to Grand Army Plaza.

And the lobster truck thinks that we should change our menus if we don't like our business being taken away by non-local vendors? How arrogant! There's simply no way having a food truck costs even a fraction of what it does to maintain a restaurant, that's why they sell their food so cheap. That undercuts the local community economy, and I would argue that is not the action of a responsible business person. On a personal note, 90 degree day, eating seafood from a truck? I don't think so.

• The PPA did not reach out to any businesses in the community first. If they did, they might have known that they scheduled the next rally this Sunday, when the businesses of Park Slope are having their annual Seventh Heaven street fair. It's our biggest even of the year... way to support the community PPA! Just a buncha' do-gooders you are!

I understand the PPA is doing this to raise money for the park. How that is happening I don't understand unless it's kick backs or high fees the trucks are paying to be there? If the park needed something like this, then they should have reached out to local businesses first. I'm sure many businesses would have responded favorably. the point is, it didn't happen. The PPA is not acting on the best interests of the community at all.
June 15, 2011, 7 am
Steve from PPW says:
Naidre’s café is easily a 10 - 15 minute walk or more from Grand Army Plaza. How on earth is a food truck over there hurting Pullicio's business. Does she know there's also a sandwich shop on the Upper West Side?

The owner of Gorilla Coffee is the only sensible person quoted. A rising tide lifts all food trucks.
June 15, 2011, 7:48 am
Matt from PS says:
Maybe "Sweet Melissa" isn't as good as she thinks she is. The fact everyone thinks that these are tax free enterprises is ridiculous. What have you ever done in your life (from crossing a bridge to starting a business) that is tax free. This is typical fear mongering from bored people who don't understand the free market. Don't get mad because you didn't think of it first.
June 15, 2011, 8:12 am
Steve from PPW says:
Exactly. Why couldn't Sweet Melissa do its own food truck. Some of these trucks have brick and mortar stores, too, so I see Murphy's complaints as just sour grapes. She's behind on a growing trend.
June 15, 2011, 8:17 am
Ben from PS says:
"I am paying rent" is the lamest excuse in the book. The food truck operators too are paying the costs of running a business, and they too are paying taxes to the city. As Matt and Steve said, it's a quality issue. If local places aren't good enough to compete with better offerings, they'll just try to shut 'em down. The food trucks have been here for years and will be here for a while longer. Get used to it.
June 15, 2011, 8:24 am
Justin from Park Splope says:
Naidre's has good food but I stopped going there because their employees are rude and aggressive. Food Trucks have nothing to do with my absence.
June 15, 2011, 8:31 am
Ben from PS says:
Additionally, there's a Greenmarket in that very same space every Saturday yet I don't hear Union Market or the other numerous fruit stands around Park Slope raising a stink about it.
June 15, 2011, 8:31 am
Russ from Park Slope says:
Commercial business space leases in Park Slope are expensive given the area's popularity - evidenced by the ever changing storefronts routinely going out of business.

While competition is clearly great in any free market - there are limits - believing the solution is either completely black or white is an oversimplification and naive.

Simply - the trucks aren't paying nearly the same costs as brick and mortar restaurants - specifically rent and aren't subject to the same routine inspection codes (you can clearly view the lettered cleanliness rating in the window of brick and mortar establishments - roving trucks dont have the same)

Bottom line - the trucks certainly impact business of certain brick and mortar establishments (not all - obviously depending on cuisine, locale, clientelle, etc).
June 15, 2011, 8:46 am
g from kensington says:
I consider the park my only back yard and am happy to have the trucks in the park...perhaps the rally isn't the best use of them...maybe a rotating group that goes to different parts of the park would be better for all the users of the park, especially for those of us on the other side of it. The rents in Park Slope are too high and when the owners wake up and all their local business renters are gone, perhaps they will wake up, but in the mean time, they are in the business of making as much money as they can like any other business person. Sweet Melissa's sucks and is too expensive. Red Hook Lobster is great and they do employ a lot of people. The trucks pay a park vendor fee and whatever other arrangement they work out with the park, perhaps including a percentage of drawer or more likely just a certain amount of sales which is what bidders to the parks department food stands have to do in order to operate inside the park. Trucks do impact the bottom line of brick and mortar establishments but don't impact all of them equally. The real story is that the consumer will get what the consumer wants at a price they are willing to pay. Local Businesses should have reached out to the Park, not the other way around.
June 15, 2011, 9:02 am
big V from Park Slope says:
"beyond ignorant" -- excuse me, but no one is under any obligation to patronize your business, whether it is based in a truck or a storefront. You chose to operate the business you are in, you willingly signed the lease, and if you don't like it, leave. Food trucks are there because people like them. Your customers are your customers for the same reason. Things change over time, but the fact that a many people choose to patronize food trucks in park slope does not mean they are "beyond ignorant." I think your comment says more about your own nasty personality than anyone else.
June 15, 2011, 9:20 am
anonymous from ps says:
Not sure why anyone would go to Naidre's anymore, anyway. Coleur Cafe has better coffee, better pastries, better food, better ambiance and way better service.

The Naidres people are just pissed their business is down because they've been unable to adjust to the new Park Slope consumers.
June 15, 2011, 10 am
anonymous from ps says:
sweet melissa's just lost an "ignorant" (and formerly regular) customer.
June 15, 2011, 12:30 pm
anony from parksl says:
I am planning to no longer give any business to anyone who comes out against the taco trucks. I prefer capitalism over being called ignorant.
June 15, 2011, 12:32 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
The tax paying businesses are subject to the DoH letter system.

How about the ones on wheels?

Can you smoke on the street when you are on line for the trucks?

A definate advantage for the trucks!
June 15, 2011, 12:49 pm
JBK from Park Slope says:
Nadres is at 7th between 11th and 12th.

Grand Army Plaza is at PPW and Union - that's more than a mile away. People aren't going a mile to get an acceptable breakfast - it's not like Nadres is Applewood, or Stone Park, or Juventino.

Does Janice Pullicio really think any of her customers are being pulled away? If so, I'm prepared to offer my inexpensive consulting services in helping Ms. Pullicio understand the demographics of her customer base.

Further, the truck owners pay taxes just like you do, and, unless the rules changed, I don't believe your rent prevents people from competing with you.

Thank god I never go to Sweet Melissas or Nadres - I hate having to disrupt my life by boycotting things.
June 15, 2011, 1:43 pm
Matt from notslope says:
Oh that reminds me..never, ever spend a dime at Sweet Melissas. What an 'ignorant' tool.
June 15, 2011, 1:48 pm
Matt from notslope says:
And after seeing the extended comment here, Naidres. You ma'am, are also a tool.
June 15, 2011, 1:50 pm
Sharon from Park Slope/Prospect Heights says:
on behalf of the North Flatbush Avenue BID, we support the food trucks at Grand Army Plaza. Small business means small business, whether on a commercial strip or a food truck, even a small cart vendor. Everyone has a right to make a living. Since our district starts at Grand Army Plaza, we welcome the additional foot traffic it brings to our area, folks who otherwise, wouldnt walk down this section of Flatbush Avenue. I noticed more pedestrians in our area the first day of the event.
Every weekend the Green Market has brought vendors from New Jersey, upstate New York and Long Island, from fresh fish, to organic dairy, to applie pies and desserts, to homemade jams and fresh fruit and vegetables. Why are businesses only complaining now about food vendors at Prospect Park?
I for one, enjoy the food trucks and I also enjoy my walk along Fifth Avenue. This town is big enough for everyone!
sharon davidson
executive director
June 15, 2011, 3:04 pm
Janice from PS says:
No, I'm not *that* Janice.

Of the 13 trucks listed on the event website, four of them that I know of already set up in PS on any given weekend. What's the big deal? People come to PS to eat, more will come for the food trucks. These business owners really think that 6 days in a year are going to put them under????

Sweet Melissa owner says "there is a truck parked right outside my door on most days". I lived above the shop for two years ending 15 days ago, there was never a truck on that block. Lying WILL cost you business.
June 15, 2011, 5:49 pm
chris from South Slope says:
I tried to attend the first food truck rally but the lines were too long to wait for overpriced food. I ended up at one of our favorite pizza joints all the way over on PPSW. If the rally had not been going on I would probably have had lunch at home and supported no one. So here's a case of it helping local businesses.
June 15, 2011, 10:41 pm
Janice from Brooklyn says:
The article also mentioned that the Park Slope Civic Council and the 5th Ave BID, which together represent the majority of the businesses in Park Slope, have lodged a complaint with the Park administrators over these truck rallies, as being economically problematic for the community. Myself and Melissa were just the ones quoted for the article, but most businesses feel the same way. Add Bierkraft to the list, among others, and that's a great place, I just heard from the owner yesterday, thanking me for taking a stand and asking what he could do?

This isn't about one food group, one restaurant or people's choice. It's about people supporting their own community businesses economically that is there for you all year long, and not allowing it to be highjacked by outsiders (only one of the trucks is Brooklyn-based) in the height of our season when we finally, hopefully, get to pay off our winter debts. Taking hundreds of people, and tens of thousands of dollars out of a local community once a month (hundreds of thousands over 6 months), hurts every business, not just the restaurants.

Instead of just posting nasty remarks, if anyone wants really to discuss the economics of it, first take a look at all the empty storefronts along 7th Avenue, think about why that may be and why the majority of businesses are against this, and then feel free to contact me directly for an intelligent conversation about it. I stand by my position, and am willing to put my name out there on behalf of all of the businesses that are suffering in the Slope, whether they are 2 blocks away or twenty. It's a community issue and an important one. "That" Janice...
June 16, 2011, 6:52 am
J from BK says:
Janice wrote "take a look at all the empty storefronts along 7th Avenue, think about why that may be"

1. The rent is too damn high -- talk to your landlords...
2. Your product isn't wanted in sufficient quantity by your customers to make your business economically viable -- innovate or die...

But if it makes you feel better to blame it on taco trucks a mile away, go ahead.
June 16, 2011, 7:54 am
Steve from PPW says:
Many of the empty store fronts were formerly things such as children's clothing stores and non-food businesses. If there was a kids clothing truck rally at Grand Army Plaza, perhaps the two could be related.

Janice, poll your customers or show us some numbers, rather than make broad statements about food trucks parked a mile from your business.

How on earth could a business twenty blocks away be hurt by this? There are pizza joints every two blocks in Park Slope, yet they all seem to do just fine.
June 16, 2011, 9 am
Jeff from Boerum Hill says:
I love some of these food trucks, and I think in general consumers should have as much choice as possible. It is absurd to me for a business owner to ask me to favor their business over someone else's because of whether the restaurant is on wheels. We'll eat whatever the hell we want, thank you very much, and we won't feel guilty about it!

Now. Here's where I'm actually with the brick-and-mortar business owners. Park Slope brick and mortar business disproportionately buy from other Park Slope businesses, increasing economic activity there. Park Slope brick and mortar business by law keep the sidewalks clean and clear of snow in Park Slope. Park Slope brick and mortar businesses pay, directly or indirectly, property taxes in Park Slope. The list of ways in which Park Slope businesses benefit Park Slope is a long one.

The fact is, businesses in Park Slope are HUGE contributors to Park Slope's quality of life beyond the products they sell. I doubt these food trucks pay their fair share to Park Slope when they go there. I think that should change.
June 16, 2011, 11:47 am
Mike from Park Slope says:
There are empty storefronts because those shops had nothing interesting going for them; and there are many more like that. Why do you think the trucks do so well? It isn't as if there's something inherently attractive about eating food from a truck. It's that many of the options around here are boring. They aren't bringing people to the neighborhood; they are content to serve a clientele that is too lazy/doesn't have time to seek out the genuine article.
June 16, 2011, 3:48 pm
DL from Slope says:
This 'festival' is taking place on FIVE dates, from 11AM-5PM. On Sundays. That's all. It is absolutely absurd to suggest that a total of 30 hours' competition (6 hours/week) is going to make-or-break a brick & mortar store.

re: empty storefronts on 7th: when I've heard the rents quoted for these places I've been shocked. If you're so upset with the empty storefronts, you should complain to the various greedy landlords on the avenue. Then again, if a bakery opened a block away from Melissa's, I doubt she'd like that either. Probably call their landlord ignorant.
June 16, 2011, 5:04 pm
Cynthia from Clinton Hill says:
Who cares, food is food. can all foodies get along? ,FOOD YOU EAT FOOD YOU S#$T.
June 16, 2011, 6:53 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
After the trucks have plundered the summer business from the store fronts, and the store fronts have closed, the trucks can drive to another neighborhood and poach business.
June 17, 2011, 4:51 pm
Dela from Prospect Heights says:
Dear Melissa Murphy,
Having tried your baked goods, I can honestly say I’d prefer if the food trucks stayed and you left the neighborhood. With so many quality bakeries and cafes in the Slope, I think ignorance is the only reason someone would step foot in your place.

Your unimpressed neighbor
June 18, 2011, 6:37 am
Joe from Flatbush says:
Considering that Melissa has three or four store fronts, I am not that concerned about how her second shop near First is doing. Especially since everything tastes like cardboard anyway.

What I would be more concerned about are the really small businesses. Mom & Pop shops that are starting to flounder and need that business.

Power on, trucks. Power on, hipsters who eat from trucks.
June 18, 2011, 6:42 am
Mike from South Slope says:
Wait, didn't Sweet Melissa's start somewhere else? Then come to Brooklyn? Hypocrite. These aren't Park Slope taxes that get paid, they are New York City taxes. And anything in a 10 mile range is pretty frickin' local, so A) the taxes they pay do go to picking up, and B) they are local.

And conversely, is it wrong for Brooklynites to go to Manhattan or Queens for dinner?
June 18, 2011, 10:18 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
It struck me as funny to hear Sweet Melissa's owner call its neighbors "beyond ignorant" for buying from food trucks, when Sweet Melissa won't seat families with small children no matter how empty their restaurant is. As a family with small children why wouldn't we buy from a food truck if we can get good food and skip the anti-family attitude?

The food trucks are breathing life into Grand Army Plaza, which has the greatest unrealized potential of any public space in America. So residents are getting exposed to the possibilities and promise of GAP, the food trucks are earning money, and Sweet Melissa gets to keep driving potential customers away. Everybody wins.
June 18, 2011, 4:05 pm
Phil from Park Slope says:
There is the issue of paying taxes, health standards, etc. to consider with these trucks no city officials seem to be addressing. Why don't these trucks have to be rated like restaurants with letter grades?
June 19, 2011, 6:50 am
steve from park slope says:
All Food Trucks Should be banned from areas with stores. Store owners pay rent and employment taxes. must sign leases and are responsible for the areas around thier shops. the trucks steal business from the shops. they are not sanitary. and they are eviormentally unsound. they idol causing exaust fumes to pollute the air . these trucks are supposed to be permitted to serve areas without stores. not to mention the annoying ice cream trucks who are soppsed to drive around and not idel. trucks are neccasary for construction sites. not in already developed areas. and if they are not in the area peaple are apt to look for stoes and spend money in the brick and mortar store. its a crazy thought that more compition is going tyo help these struggling stores in expensive park slope . get real lower our rents and taxes or protect us freom these gypsy stores. mr deblasio wake up stop the insanity. , hoew many stores need to close down . i should take my business and put in on 4 wheels. ill pay the parking tickets instead of my 5000 dollar rent. wake up wake up
June 19, 2011, 5:04 pm
steve from park slope says:
its a dammed depression in park slope . not only are store owners having trouble but our customers are leaving the area do to job losses and high cost of living. they gypsy truck is a crime to the struggling store fronts of park slope. keep driving all you trucks. or get a store front and pay your way like the rest of us. if everyone with a store front just put it on wheels no one would rent stores. wake up people support your local small business. or move to another city. park slop[e was one of the most loyal communities in ny now we pass the local venders as if they are not struggling already. wake uo what made the slpoe so great were the great diversity of food stores. you want starbucks on every corner. and closed down store fronts. the area will deteriorate . you came to the slope now support the slope ore get out take a ride with the trucker. leave. we need our community back . support your local small business.
June 19, 2011, 5:21 pm
steve from park slope says:
drive your food around in the heat not recommended. support your local small businesses
June 19, 2011, 5:22 pm
common sense from bay ridge says:
When do these workers in food trucks wash their hands? All they do is spew pollution all day, violate many health regulations, and then leave a mountain of garbage when they are done. I'd rather spend an extra $, and not get food poisoning.
June 20, 2011, 9:47 am
common sense from bay ridge says:
I also love how they count money, right before they touch your food.
June 20, 2011, 9:49 am
Michael Cairl from Park Slope says:
Your statement that the Park Slope Civic Council "lodged complaints with the Alliance" is incorrect. The Park Slope Civic Council has not taken a position for or against the food trucks.

Michael Cairl
President, Park Slope Civic Council
June 20, 2011, 9:59 am
JK from Park Slope says:
Re Bierkraft - are you authorized to speak for the owners? I'd be mightily offended if I were Richard&Daphne and you were representing me as taking a position on something.

Perhaps I'll ask them.
June 20, 2011, 10:52 am
Greg from Park Slope says:
And where do these truck folks go to the bathroom when they are there all day?
June 20, 2011, 8:45 pm
Lou from Park Slope says:
Wait, because they have to pay rent and have debt all the other choices should be taken away?

What about focusing on providing great food and service to ensure loyalty, and running a business efficiently, to be successful rather than removing competition?

Oh yeah, calling your customers ignorant is probably not the best way to keep them coming back... i'm just sayin'
June 24, 2011, 2:38 pm
mayer from williamsburg says:
Sounds like the restaurants would be better served fighting landlords, but since that is a much harder battle they are turning their aggression against food trucks. Food trucks have found a way to be conveniently near the park and not pay exorbitant rent. Good for them. The broader issue is that the park is siding with private enterprise whether it be trucks OR local businesses. I am against this privatization of PUBLIC PROPERTY.
The 5th ave. association letter says in affect "we scratch your backs, prospect park, you scratch ours." It is proof of the roots of parks becoming malls for established business and creative graveyards for the rest of us.
June 27, 2011, 10:06 am
Elizabeth from Carroll Gardens says:
Food trucks have been in the city, and surrounding boroughs for years (check out "Manhattan Transfer" by John Dos Passos) serving hungry city-dwellers. It just happens to be the cyclical nature of trends, and the recession that are urging more business owners to try out a food truck before opening a brick-and-mortar business.
Yes, food trucks are cheaper to operate considering you don't have to pay rent, but that's about it. Food trucks, have to pay taxes, they get inspected by DoH officials, and have to follow the same food safety rules that brick-and-mortar businesses have to follow.
From my experience working in a few brick-and-mortar I can say that there are things happening behind the scenes that many diners may not want to know about (no, those things aren't against health code, they're just a fact of working in the food industry).
To the brick and mortar owners who have been quoted in this article, you should also complain about people eating at home, since they take away from local business. Also, the products that you order from U.S Food Service, and other restaurant supply companies aren't local...shame on you!
July 22, 2011, 3:51 pm
Janice from Parkslope says:
Michael, this was before you were voted in. I have an email confirming this complaint from the previous members, and the positions of the PSCC and the 5th Ave BID on this issue. Also, I was at the meeting when you were elected, and it was definitely a meeting where all were in consensus against the trucks. Please do not sell out those who voted you in, but claiming to not have taken a stand, when you know for sure what everyone's opinion was at the PSCC members meeting. Janice

Michael Cairl from Park Slope says:
Your statement that the Park Slope Civic Council "lodged complaints with the Alliance" is incorrect. The Park Slope Civic Council has not taken a position for or against the food trucks.

Michael Cairl
President, Park Slope Civic Council
Aug. 25, 2011, 7:54 am
Janice from Parkslope says:
JK from park slope... I have an email from Daphne as well, or I would not have said it. My contact information is in a prior post, contact me directly if you have any doubts and I'd be happy to forward you the email.
Aug. 25, 2011, 7:56 am
Geno from park slope says:
Those coffee shop anrestaurants just plain suck, and their menu as well as employee lazy and rude, so no wonder they acting this way LOL.
May 22, 2013, 9:17 am
Geno from park slope says:
Those coffee shop anrestaurants just plain suck, and their menu as well as employee lazy and rude, so no wonder they acting this way LOL.
May 22, 2013, 9:17 am

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